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Nutrient Effects On Leaf Biomass Allocation And Herbivory Across Tropical Forest Succession


Biomass allocation is a strategy used by plants to overcome resource constraints. Plants can change their biomass allocation in fine roots and wood, but it is unclear if biomass allocation to leaves can be plastic. To determine if tropical trees can adjust leaf biomass allocation to address nutrient limitation, we analyzed nutrient effects on canopy leaf biomass—calculated by multiplying the leaf area index (LAI) and leaf mass per area (LMA)—over forest succession in Agua Salud, Panama. We used generalized linear mixed models (GLMM) to determine the effects of nutrient addition, forest age, and the forest landscape on LMA, LAI, leaf herbivory and leaf biomass. Our results showed that there are no significant effects of nutrient addition and forest age on LMA, LAI, leaf herbivory, and leaf biomass (Pr(>F) and p > .05). These data suggest that plants do not adjust biomass allocation to leaves in response to nutrient additions and across forest age. Our findings are consistent with studies which have found that plants typically adjust allocation in fine roots and wood, but not to leaf biomass. This study contributes to our current understanding of plant nutrient strategies in tropical forests and supports carbon sink efforts such as reforestation and recovery.

Year of Publication
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Undergraduate Ecology Research Reports
REU Research Report